Beijing+20 – The Beijing Platform for Action turns 20

 
The Beijing Platform for Action
Turns 20

Women in Power and Decision-making

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Women are often dynamic leaders of change, galvanizing women and men to get involved, claim their rights, strengthen their communities and protect their planet. Their participation is fundamental to democratic governance. Yet women still have far to go towards equal representation in positions of power and leadership, whether in corporate boardrooms or presidential cabinets.

Discriminatory laws and practices hold women back, as do limits on education, income and time away from caregiving. Just over 21 per cent of parliamentarians are women, up from around 11 per cent when the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women took place in 1995. While women have made inroads in many areas, at the current pace of change, we won’t see gender parity in governments, parliaments or peace tables until the next century.

The Beijing conference agreement, known as the Platform for Action, dubbed women in power and decision-making one of 12 critical areas of concern. It made two essential commitments to change. First, it called for measures ensuring women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making. Political quotas or positive measures are examples of these. By reserving seats or candidacies for women, they have driven dramatic increases in the number of women leaders in some countries. Second, the Platform urged steps to increase women’s ability to participate. Training on leadership, public speaking and political campaigning, for instance, grooms women to compete, win and be good leaders who can inspire others.

Women have a right to equal participation. Once in leadership roles, they can make a difference that benefits whole societies. The Inter-Parliamentary Union has found that women politicians give more attention to social welfare and legal protections, and improve trust. Taking up the Beijing commitments and rallying around women’s leadership could accelerate progress towards equal participation—right now. We can’t wait until the next century!  

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Fast facts

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Note: 2014 reflects numbers as of 1 January.

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In the words of...

Michelle Bachelet – Once we make this dream a reality…

Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet was sworn-in for a second term as President of Chile in March 2014. Previously, she was the first Executive Director of UN Women, from its inception in 2010 until March 2013. A longstanding women's rights advocate, she has promoted gender equality and empowerment of women throughout her distinguished political career, including as her country's first female President, between 2006 and 2010. In this editorial, she says nearly 20 years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, we must recognize significant progress, but challenges remain in terms of gender equality and equity.

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Editor's picks

Trinidadian women gain ground at the ballot box

Trinidadian women gain ground at the ballot box‬
Photo: Abraham Diaz/The Trinidad Guardian

Where: Trinidad & Tobago
Organization: UN Women

With support from UN Women's Fund for Gender Equality, a Network of NGOs in Trinidad and Tobago is training women to be more effective in running for election. They seek to learn the rules, use the rules and change the system.

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A tale of three decisions

A tale of three decisions (FAO)
Photo: FAO

Where: India
Organization: Food and Agriculture Organization

Hansaben lives in a small village in the Indian state of Gujarat, south of Ahmedabad, with her husband and their young son. Her daughter is older and lives with her husband in a nearby city. Hansaben has made three decisions that changed her life for the better.

Read more »

Strengthening Voices for Democracy

Strengthening Voices for Democracy
Photo: UN Women/Alexis De Herde

Where: Global
Organization: UN Women

From Azerbaijan to Zimbabwe, UN Women is working in more than 70 countries around the world to strengthen women's voices, leadership and political participation.

Read more »

Women gain ground in El Salvador's politics

Women gain ground in El Salvador's politics
Photo: Mauricio Martínez/UNDP El Salvador

Where: El Salvador
Organization: UNDP

Ana Luisa Rodríguez de González has already served four terms as the mayor of Atiquizaya. She won her first election in 2003. In that same year, of the 262 municipal councils holding elections, only 15 were led by women.

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Cameroon elections catapult women

Cameroon elections catapult women
Photo: UN Women

Where: Cameroon
Organization: UN Women

More than doubling their representation in the National Assembly, this unprecedented increase brings the proportion of women in the National Assembly to 31 per cent.

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Women Sow Seeds of Hope in Mindanao

Where: Philippines
Organization: World Food Programme

A series of farming projects on the Philippines island of Mindanao are helping women displaced by years of conflict rebuild their lives. With WFP's support, they started a communal garden for women, which is helping them build a voice in their communities.

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Tunisia's new Constitution: a breakthrough for women's rights

Tunisia's new Constitution: a breakthrough for women's rights
Photo: World Bank/Arne Hoel

Where: Tunisia
Organization: UN Women

Ana Luisa Rodríguez de González has already served four terms as the mayor of Atiquizaya. She won her first election in 2003. In that same year, of the 262 municipal councils holding elections, only 15 were led by women.

Read more »

New project in China training women leaders

Where: China
Organization: UNDEF

UN in Action looks at a pilot project, supported by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), to increase the number of women leaders was launched in the remote village of Qing Xi. Training is conducted in leadership, management and decision-making skills. The project also aims to change the male perception of women's role so they can help support women to raise their voices and shape a new future for China.

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First woman ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda blazes trails in seeking justice for gender-based crimes

Where: The Netherlands
Organization: UN Women

UN Women interviews the first woman Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fatou Bensouda, on her plans to strengthen international prosecutions of sexual and gender-based crimes. In early September 2012, UN Women co-hosted a symposium on using international prosecutions to strengthen gender justice.

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